Remembering Russell E. Train for improving federal decision-making

Earlier this week, on Sept. 17, 2012, America lost one of its great conservationists and administrative lawyers—Russell E. Train.  Mr. Train had a long history of government service that began in the halls of Congress in 1949, where he was an Attorney, Chief Counsel, and Minority Advisor on various Congressional Committees.  In 1956, Mr. Train moved to the Department of Treasury where he headed the Legal Advisory Staff.  By 1957, he had earned a seat on the bench of the U.S. Tax Court, where he served as a judge until 1965.

Mr. Train left public service in 1965, but not for long.  In 1968, Mr. Train was elected Chair of President Nixon’s Task Force on the Environment.  At the same time, he served as President of the Conservation Foundation and worked with the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs to hire Lynton Keith Caldwell to assist in developing the legislation that became the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  After NEPA’s enactment, as well as a year of service as Undersecretary at the Department of Interior, Mr. Train was chosen by President Nixon to serve as the first chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.  There, he oversaw the early implementation of NEPA.

It didn’t take long for administrative law scholars to realize the benefits that the law Mr. Train helped pioneer brought to the administrative decision-making process.  On March 7, 1972, then Chairman of the Administrative Conference Roger C. Cramton, accompanied by then Research Director Richard Berg, testified to the Senate Committees on Interior and Insular Affairs and Public Works regarding The Effect of NEPA on Decision-Making by Federal Administrative Agencies Chairman Cramton (speaking personally rather than on behalf of the Conference) testified that NEPA is an “important success story” for “nudging and pushing Federal agencies toward a more constructive and rational position in balancing environmental considerations with other values. . . .  We all know that there is a tendency of each agency to become absorbed in its own mission, its own special constituency, that tends to limit its perspective and its breadth of view.”  He praised the law for creating “more thoughtful, more informed decisionmaking by Federal agencies.”

In a 2010 preamble to the Environmental Law Institute’s tribute to NEPA after 40 years, NEPA Success Stories, Mr. Train commented that "NEPA democratized decisionmaking" and modestly chose to recognize the importance of "the many federal employees and citizens who have applied the law over these decade"[1]  It is for his contributions to this pioneering and important process to improve federal decision-making, and for his own public service, that we remember Russell Train today.

[1] Environmental Law Institute, NEPA Success Stories 3 (2010).  Available at:

*This article is not an official communication from the Administrative Conference of the United States, nor does the Conference express any views  on the National Environmental Policy Act or any of the testimony referenced in this article.

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